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Infant Brain Injuries

Brain injuries can result from trauma to the brain caused by a forceful impact to the head, violent shaking of the head, an object contacting the brain by penetrating the skull, infection, tumors, stroke in the brain, or oxygen deprivation to the brain. Depending on the severity of the injury, consequences can be from limited to severe, including coma or death. Brain injuries seen in infants often have been caused by events that happened before or during birth, or from accidents or intentional shaking (“shaken baby syndrome”).


A baby’s brain can be injured by a lack of oxygen to the brain during the birthing process or immediately after birth. This injury, called an anoxic injury, can be the result of a respiratory acidosis or a metabolic acidosis. Both can lead to the child suffering from periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). If hemorrhage occurs, the child may suffer from or be diagnosed with an intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH).

Brain injury can happen during the birthing process in a number of ways. Although more common in premature babies, infants suffering brain injuries from birth trauma may have had bleeding in the brain caused by a blood vessel breaking or lack of oxygen in the brain. Symptoms can include seizures and lethargy. Fractured skull bones are rare, but when they occur can sometimes begin to heal as an indentation that, when left untreated, can put pressure on the brain. Oxygen deprivation during the birthing process can occur as a result of umbilical cord compromise or compression, uterine rupture, placental previa or placental abruption. If oxygen deprivation occurs for an extended period of time it can cause death to brain cells, and therefore, brain damage.

Brain injury can also occur as a result of some kinds of medical treatment or medications such as chemotherapy. Poisoning from toxic substances, such as heavy metals, teratogens, chemicals-including medications, or alcohol can also cause brain cell death.

Injury from non-accidents- an object striking the head, the head striking an object (blunt force trauma), or violent shaking-can cause severe and lasting brain damage in infants from the resulting subdural hematoma. Many of these causes frequently result in death.


Brain injury can cause a wide range of disabilities, depending on the part of the brain that is affected and the extent of the damage. Each case of brain damage presents with a set of symptoms unique to the individual, but symptoms can include physical disabilities, learning disabilities, emotional problems, speech difficulties, and mental deficiencies. Brain injuries from oxygen deprivation can cause cerebral palsy and various types of paralysis or paresis. Blindness and hearing damage can also result from brain injury.

Treatment for many of these conditions involves management of the disability through physical and/or occupational therapy, and in some cases medication or surgery. Regardless of the type or severity of brain damage, the consequences are almost always life-lasting and irreversible. When a child exhibits signs or symptoms of a brain injury after birth, it is not unusual for parents to be told that such injuries are congenital in origin. Although this is possible, you should have your child’s medical chart reviewed by a medical negligence attorney who has experience handling birth injury cases, including brain injuries to children.